Student teachersTHE LOOMING EDUCATION STRIKES represent a double whammy for Gwynne "Loke" Staton, a University of Hawaii graduate student who is teaching at Pearl City High School.
face hardship on
One whose future and income
are at stake is 'really trying to
look to the bigger picture'
By Christine Donnelly
Despite the potential of having both her studies and her job disrupted, Staton said she supports the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly in their bids for higher pay and more respect.
Both unions have set April 5 to strike unless they settle with the state, leaving Staton and others like her wondering whether they will be able to complete their degrees and be ready for full-time Department of Education teaching jobs next fall.
"It is a problem. But I'm really trying to look beyond my own situation to the bigger picture," said Staton. "I support the teachers and the faculty. Education is important. I think it should be a top priority, and I don't understand why it's not."
Staton, 25, is one of about 20 students in a University of Hawaii-Manoa College of Education program that allows students to simultaneously earn state teaching certificates and master's degrees in education.
In her final semester of the two-year program, Staton is attending a weekly seminar at the UH campus, writing her master's thesis and teaching a full schedule of pre-algebra and geometry classes as an "intern" at Pearl City High School.
Her second year in the classroom (she was a student teacher at Dole Middle School last year) has her feeling like a comrade, but Staton and her classmates are not members of the HSTA and did not cast ballots in the strike votes. They have attended rallies and waved signs, though, and "will support the teachers any way we can," said Staton, who already has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Redlands University in California.
Staton worried at first that she might be asked to cross the picket line since she is not a member of HSTA, but her UH professors reassured her that would not be the case, "because we're not DOE employees."
The monthly stipend the master's students earn for teaching is paid by the UH College of Education, not the state Department of Education, she said.
"We don't get a full salary," said Staton, who is unsure whether even the stipend would continue if UHPA walks out. "I know we won't get HSTA strike pay if the teachers go out, though."
The possible outcomes for student teachers such as Staton depend on which units strike, and for how long.
If only UHPA strikes, "we could keep teaching, but I don't know what would happen with my master's thesis and certification." If only HSTA strikes, "I wouldn't teach, but I could go to my UH seminar and finish my thesis."
If both strike, "well, that's the big question. Would we graduate? I don't really know. All we can do is wait and see what happens."
>> UHPA Web site
>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site
>> DOE Web site